Sunday, April 26, 2020

Does SARS-CoV2 Strangle P53 to kill Natural Killer Immunity?

Codondex iScore
It's intriguing to speculate why p53 regulates the cardiac transcriptome and the ATIP gene, at least to transcribe ATIP1 a human isoform of the Angiotensin II AT2 Receptor Interacting Protein? The gene's different names describe its various functions including; Mitochondrial tumor suppressor 1 (MTSG1) or Microtubule-Associated Scaffold Protein 1 (MTUS1). Expression of MTUS1 was reported lost in various types of human malignancies such as colon, ovarian, head-and-neck, pancreas, breast cancers, bladder, gastric, and lung cancers.

AT2 is a receptor associated with Renin-Angiotensin System (RAS) and vasodilation that confers potential benefits in pathogenic conditions. It is not highly expressed on Natural Killer (NK) cells, but has been detected and was shown in a rat model of myocardial infarction to reduce injury and have dampening effects on inflammation. The AT2 receptor, in combination with ATIP1 is also reported as a tumor suppressor. New experimental evidence showed interaction defects between ATIP1 and two mutant forms of the AT2 receptor identified in cases of mental retardation. The studies point to a functional role of the AT2-ATIP1 axis in cognition.

p53 is a major transcription factor and the TP53 gene is the most mutated in cancer. It has been the extended subject of this blog and our research into relationships between p53 and Natural Killer cells. Our interest is p53 genetic signatures used to select specific diseased cells to co-culture and educate NK cells that can be applied as custom, target therapy against various diseases.

As reported in a previous blog entry, RAS is a cornerstone of blood pressure which has been directly implicated in Coronavirus patients whose NK cells have also been severely depleted. Transcriptomic analyses identified several immune pathways and pro-inflammatory cytokines induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection evidencing a sustained inflammation and cytokine storm. Pathway analysis revealed that patient’s lymphopenia may be caused by activation of apoptosis and p53 signaling pathway in lymphocytes.

If, as reported the RAS of NK cells contributes to the control of blood pressure via the localized ratio of AT1:AT2 expression. Then, in the capillaries of tissue micro-environments the delicate balance of vasoconstriction<>vasodilation signaling may be exploited by NK cells scanning the affected cells to deliver their innate inflammatory response. Cytokine directed vascular changes that effect local blood pressure may be another varied contributor.

So, with these time-bound, localized, micro-pressure effects in progress how does an innate NK cell go about killing an infected target that may have also motivated its AT1:AT2 response? AT2 was found to be an AT1 antagonist, which adds complexity to the function and ratio effects of this diverse protein. ATIP is an agonistic factor of AT2 to exert opposing effects to AT1, such as organ-protective and anti-inflammatory effects. We know ATIP's including ATIP1 binds AT2's cytoplasmic tail and impacts signaling that results from Angiotensin II (AngII) binding AT2's extracellular domain. We also know p53 transcribes at least ATIP1 and that ATIP3 is directly implicated in microtubule organization.

ATIP1 has been previously reported to localize either at the mitochondria or the Golgi. These apparently discordant results might be reconciled if ATIP1 were a microtubule-associated protein. Indeed, mitochondrial organelles are highly enriched on microtubules that ensure their intracellular transport. On the other hand, the Golgi apparatus is located at the nuclear periphery close to the microtubule organizing center (MTOC). ATIP1 might thus associate with microtubules and provide a direct link between the AT2 receptor at the cell membrane and the cytoskeleton.

The prospect that RAS related signaling and p53 are tied in both lymphocytes and broader cell biology is tantalizing. Among the cellular signaling pathways, p53 plays a prominent role in RAS. Activation of p53 increases Angiotensin and AT1 expression. Conversely, AngII activates p53 pathway to mediate its downstream cellular effects. Mechanically, stretch-mediated release of AngII induces myocyte apoptosis by activating p53 that enhances the local renin-angiotensin system and decreases the Bcl-2-to-Bax protein ratio in the cell.

In Coronavirus patients, SARS-CoV2 binding ACE2 receptors may modify processes associated with the ACE2/Ang-(1-7)/Mas axis and acute, chronic inflammation, including reported leukocyte influx. The mechanical stretch of vasoconstriction<>vasodilation could cause AngII to activate p53. Therefore, if SARS-CoV2 impedes the AngII-ACE2-AT2-ATIP1 pathway that under normal circumstances in NK cells may direct microtubules to form an immune synapse for target killing, then the rapidly multiplying virus binding ACE2 may simultaneously render NK ineffective and by mechanical-stretch affect cardiomyocytes by p53 activation, which would lower AT2 ratios, including in vascular epithelial cells to induce apoptosis or G2/M cell death. A potent cocktail indeed!

Monday, April 20, 2020

SARS-CoV2, Blood Pressure and Natural Killer Cells

CG Heart.gif
The Cardiac Cycle
A beating heart is the first sign of life in the developing fetus. Cells of the heart's ventricular and aortic cavities express various proteins with non-active natriuretic and diuretic peptides in a pattern associated with blood pressure. Activated Corin or Furin proteins cleave these peptides into shorter active forms. The cleavage site often defines how these peptides influence cells and the cellular processes while circulating in blood. But, the heart is not the only place this mix of proteins and peptides are manufactured. From early to late pregnancy Corin level changes were greater in women who developed gestational hypertension, commensurate with diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure and it got doctors and scientists thinking?

NT-proBNP is a pro-hormone, a Corin or Furin dependent peptide from the same molecule as activated BNP. Both are released when pressure changes inside the heart. Circulating levels of NT-proBNP were higher in early and late-onset preeclampsia. BNP mRNA and protein were also detected in placentas from women with preeclampsia and controls. In normal pregnancies, BNP in plasma is stable, but in severe preeclampsia it is elevated. In 181 preeclampsia patients higher levels of Corin were expressed, also secreted from synctiotrophoblasts and extravillous trophoblasts of the placenta.

The secretion of NT-proBNP, and BNP mRNA and receptors were investigated in cultured primary trophoblasts. Low levels of NT-proBNP were found in the supernatants of term, but not first-trimester trophoblasts. In preeclampsia patients Corin mRNA and protein in uterine tissue were significantly lower, but plasma Corin higher, compared to normal pregnancies. These apparently conflicting reports may relate to local blood pressure.

A paper studying Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP) identified that Corin and ANP promoted trophoblast invasion and spiral artery remodeling in the developing placenta. Pregnant Corin or ANP-deficient mice developed high blood pressure and proteinuria, characteristics of preeclampsia. Further, trophoblast invasion and uterine spiral artery remodeling were markedly impaired. Consistently ANP potently stimulated human trophoblasts invading in Matrigels. That Corin is up-regulated with stromal cell decidualization and strongly localized provides compelling evidence to support localized, but not circulating Corin activating ANP within these uterine cells. This may then invite trophoblast and Natural Killer (NK) cell invasion and the ultimate handshake of fetal trophoblasts with maternal endothelial cells lining spiral arteries of the developing placenta.

In early pregnancy NK cells expand to become the largest population of immune cells in decidua lining the uterus (uNK). They are closely associated with the development of blood vessels including spiral artery remodeling and possess a functional Renin- Angiotensin system, cornerstones of blood pressure. ANP antagonizes Angiotensin II receptor type 1 (AT1) leading to vasoconstriction. The ratio of uNK cells expressing AT1 markedly changed between gestation day 6 and 10. At day 10-12 ANP strongly co-localized to uNK cells at implantation sites, immediately after spiral arterial modification. Expression of vasoregulatory molecules by uNK cells suggests they contribute to the changes in blood pressure that occur between days 5 and 12 coincidental with their expansion during normal pregnancy in mice.

Studies of patients with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension have also implicated BNP in the decline of NK cells and CD8+ T-Cells. A similar depletion was recently reported in Coronavirus  patients and expression of NT-proBNP was significantly elevated.  It is reasonable to infer that blood pressure and NK cells are associated especially in the tight confines of pulmonary capillaries or placental tissue.  Perhaps its their capacity to express molecules that participate in Corin activated vasoregulation through natriuretic peptides and to be immunoreactive, or perhaps their reaction to kill infected cells results from it - who knows?

In addition to the well documented natriuresis, diuresis and vasodilation, BNP may also modulate immune and inflammatory reaction to cardiac injury. BNP depletes monocytes, B lymphocytes and NK cells in peripheral blood. BNP regulates the chemotaxis of monocytes and production of inflammatory molecules by macrophages. BNP may promote cardiac neutrophil infiltration and also have direct effects on matrix remodeling and wound healing. All of these characteristics have been observed in lungs of critical care and deceased Coronavirus patients.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

What does COVID-19 have to do with heart attack?

Ground Glass Opacity's in Lungs
Natural Killer (NK) cells are depleted, but neutrophils are elevated in the lungs of hospitalized Coronavirus patients the world over. This is the sign of immune system chaos that typically precedes disease progression. How COVID-19 generates this condition is unknown, but surviving NK cells express NKG2A inhibitory receptors and are exhausted.

Typically patient CT scans reveal "Ground Glass Opacity's", fuzzy areas in lung scans that identify affected tissues. Without recovery at this point, the disease advances, tissues of the lungs can become infected, pneumonia may set it and soon after the patient may die.

It was recently published by doctors at Northwestern and UCLA that in around 20% of COVID-19 cases Troponin enzyme was elevated and correlated with very high mortality rates. Troponin is almost exclusively expressed in heart attack patients, so what does it have to do with COVID-19?

A different study tracked NK cells in lungs and linked pulmonary inflammation with depleted NK cells and elevated neutrophils. It found pulmonary NK cells control neutrophil intravascular motility and response to acute inflammation. Intriguingly, in a model of experimental myocardial infarction, NK cell depletion resulted in increased neutrophilic pathology in the lungs of mice, raising the question of how this influence is mediated. The study failed to identify the function of Ly6G, which by June 2019 remained unclear to the scientists what role it might play in the transfer of information between NK cells and neutrophils. A different team recently published a joint report showing lymphocyte antigen 6 family member E (Ly6E) impaired Coronavirus fusion and conferred immune control of viral disease. The link to Ly6 in these different reports may be important to front-line teams working to identify treatments.

In 2013 a joint China-Japan team had already published; "Lung Natural Killer Cells Play a Major Counter-Regulatory Role in Pulmonary Vascular Hyperpermeability After Myocardial Infarction". The report documented the counter-intuitive action of NK cells in lungs of mice induced with heart attack. Similarities to the reported behavior of NK cells and neutrophils in late stage COVID-19 patients expressing Troponin is remarkable. The team rescued the respiratory phenotype in NK cell–depleted mice by the adoptive transfer of NK cells from wild-type mice, but not from IL-10 knockout mice. All this may explain why preliminary successes have been achieved treating patients with plasma transfers or from patients who had recovered from Corona or with Mesenchymal stem cells.

Ly6 is only present in mice, but human neutrophils express the structurally related Ly6G molecule CD177 (19q13.31), a member of the Ly6/uPAR (urokinase plasminogen activator receptor) family. Interestingly, antibodies against CD177 have been shown to inhibit neutrophil transmigration across an endothelial monolayer, potentially by interfering with an interaction between Ly6G and PECAM1.

One interesting approach, at the right dosage may be to deploy a broad anti-venom aimed at 3TFx toxins because of their close resemblance to COVID-19 and Ly6 protein structures especially at the S1-CTD contact point. If anti-venom performs anywhere close to COVID-19 binding or connector domains it may impede it's entry to cells.
HCoV binding ACE2

A scientific conflict is brewing over the use ACE receptor inhibitor Captoptril against COVID-19 binding ACE. The drug is an angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor derived from a peptide discovered in the venom of the lancehead viper (Bothrops jararaca). This debate over ACE2 upregulation may be preventing its broader use in patients despite its potential to reduce the capacity of COVID-19 to bind cells.

Its well known that several toxins and venoms can also lead to heart muscle injury, which COVID-19 seems to be emulating. The combination of viral immune response and false toxin signalling, that raises Troponin levels seems sufficient to trigger the immune system chaos that precedes typical disease progression and self-induced (possibly autoimmune) infection.